Scene: The Coldest Day of the Year Bike Ride
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Scene: The Coldest Day of the Year Bike Ride

Monday's "Coldest Day of the Year Ride" was neither very cold nor very long, but it was fairly well attended.

We hopped on a Bixi bike yesterday to head to City Hall for the the Bike Union-organized Coldest Day of the Year Ride—on a day when the temperature wasn’t very cold for a Canadian winter at all.

Even before we arrived, we were reveling in the fact that we wouldn’t have to “dock” the Bixi bike for hours. Bixi had arranged for a three hour amnesty from charges for members participating in the ride, so we were able to shut off the automatic 30 minute countdown we usually keep in our heads when we have a Bixi bike out. They’d also provided a limited number of bicycles free of charge to non-member participants who’d reserved a bike for the event beforehand, so the bike share company was well represented amongst the crowd when we arrived at the marshalling point behind City Hall. We spotted councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre–Rosedale), Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32, Beaches-East York), and Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29, Toronto-Danforth) astride Bixi bikes; also there were Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) and Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina), who spoke briefly after Bike Union director Andrea Garcia’s opening remarks.

Addressing the crowd of about 150, Layton joked about cyclists’ need for long johns in winter (which, as we stood getting colder in the shade, we started to wish we’d worn despite the mild temperature). He also noted an interesting little bit of streetscape trivia: the north side bike lanes on our streets are usually free of snow since they receive more sun, while south side lanes are often crusted and icy. He cited this as an example of the sort of thing that the City is working to improve on as the demand for year-round cycling grows. Also making brief remarks were representatives from Bixi, promoting their ongoing Winter Warrior contest, and Toronto Police Constable Tony Vella, who spoke about the City’s efforts to keep parked cars out of bike lanes, urged cyclists to remember to wear reflective clothing, and told the crowd he was looking forward to getting on a bike for the first time in years.

As the group slowly got moving, escorted by yellow-jacketed bicycle cops onto University Avenue, there were a fair number of lunchtime gawkers, several wondering out loud what the “protest” was for. (Riders explained as they cruised by.)

It seemed like the ride was over almost as quickly as it had begun, as we coasted down to Front Street and made a slow curve to the west side entrance of the Royal York Hotel, where smiling staff were waiting with decanters and cups for complimentary hot chocolate and coffee. The number of cyclists we saw enroute, just going about their daily business, was clear evidence that plenty of Torontonians are continuing to commute by bicycle this winter—it’s not just the “fanatics” in their reflective jackets and cycling tights who are devoted to being in the saddle in all weather.